If you’ve been following Governor Cuomo’s news conferences, then you probably know that New York is just beginning to schedule a four phase reopening of businesses by geographical region. Several areas upstate have already been granted the green light to remove some restrictions. However in Pleasantville, which is in the area designated as “Mid-Hudson,” no such waiver has been issued.
The Westchester Table Tennis Center is considered a gym in terms of its categorization, and thus will be ensconced in “Phase Four,” which is the final phase for ending the official lockdown. In other words, that means we’re at the end of the line, and it would appear that we are probably not going to see the club opening this month (June, 2020). And note: All reopening decisions are subject to so-called health-related benchmarks (e.g., deaths, hospital cases) being met.
When we do finally return to ping pong, it is probably wise to consider that things are going to be different. Even though the medical consensus is that People with Parkinson’s (PwP) are not at an increased risk of contracting COVID – 19, nevertheless Parkinson’s patients have a predilection toward pneumonia because 1) of swallowing difficulties, which can result in aspiration of food or saliva into the lungs instead of ingested into the stomach via the esophagus, and 2) relating to muscles of respiration which may be compromised. Additionally, PwP are an older group of people, and older people are at a higher risk at having more severe symptoms if they do get sick from the virus.
There is no question that upon the return of Ping Pong Parkinson some safeguards will be necessary. But before we even discuss what new precautionary measures to adopt, we should be asking this preeminent question: Should PwP or our volunteers come back when the State of NY grants permission for the WTTC to open its doors? We should all understand that there will be a risk. How much of a risk? I don’t know how to quantify it, and it would probably be reasonable and prudent for each of us to consult with his/her personal physician in determining what the risks (and benefits) are of returning to the club without an available vaccine or herd immunity in place.
When we do eventually come back – whenever that is – it will be implicitly understood that there will be a need for stringent sanitation measures. We’ll need to pay attention to all the rules that have been formulated in the federal and state guidelines including social distancing and masks. The ping pong table does automatically establish a 9 foot buffer zone which is protective, and masks can prevent aerosol or droplets from being expelled into the air. The ball, however does present with a special problem. It becomes a fomite (an inanimate object harboring the virus) and could conceivably spread an infection from one person to another. (Of course, sandpaper rackets will crush any Carona – type agents!) (Editor: That’s a lie.) Therefore, frequent hand washing becomes imperative. It would be wise for PPP to have sanitizers available, and hand washing should be advised before and after a game or match or a short time interval. All members, PwP and volunteers alike, should be reminded not to touch their faces with their hands. One more advisory (subject to discussion by the group): Doubles should be forbidden for the time being. Me, Lao Du? I would criminalize doubles anyway – I hate it! (Why should I share the glory of a victory with another human being?)
See you soon …? Maybe.